Common Summer Car Breakdowns

By Angela Monroe - November 30, 2020

Common Summer Car Breakdowns

Worried about your car in hot weather? You’re not alone. The beginning of summer is one of the most common times of the year for car breakdowns. The Aussie summer sun isn’t kind to cars.

Here are the causes of car breakdowns in summer and how you can protect your car:

Key Points:

  • A clean battery with clean terminals is a healthy battery
  • Higher temperatures can increase coolant pressure tyre pressure
  • Oil acts differently depending on the climate
  • Wiper blades can often be overlooked until wet weather after summer

Weak Battery

Weak Battery

Hot weather puts a lot of strain on car batteries. The hotter operating temperatures can cause battery fluid to evaporate which can cause a dead battery.

Additionally, the extra demand to keep not only passengers cool but also the engine tasks the battery with working even harder.

Precaution: Check your battery terminals and clean away any debris. A clean battery with equally clean terminals is a healthy battery.

Engine Overheating Problems

Engine Overheating Problems

Many drivers worry about engines overheating. Fair enough too as ‘frying’ an engine is expensive to fix or replace. The likely events are radiator and coolant hose leaks as pressure builds up in the high heat resulting in a leak.

Overheating is common in stop-go driving on busy roads with a lot of red lights as the engine doesn’t get much airflow into the radiator. Secondly, when driving up hills with heavy loads and the A/C on.

Precaution: Keep an eye on your car’s temperature gauge, especially when idling in hot weather with the A/C on for long periods of time or driving up hills or under heavy load. If you notice high engine temperatures, pull over, let it cool down and call a professional. For most people, replacing an engine is a lot more expensive than running late.

Tyre Pressure

Tyre Pressure

If you’ve ever walked barefoot on a hot day on a road or even sand on the beach, you’ll know how hot it can get. Although it’s unlikely to cause rubber tyres to melt, it does increase the temperature of the air inside. As hot air expands, pressure increases.

In worst case scenarios, this can cause a blowout. Talk to your local expert as regular wheel rotation can really help.

Precaution: Manufacturers know their products. Check your tyre placard, commonly located in a door jamb for the recommended pressure. If you’ve fitted aftermarket wheels and tyres to your vehicle, talk to a professional. Some tyre retailers can check and inflate your tyres for free or simply check yours at a service station.

Oil Grade

Oil Grade

Oil is crucial for engines. It’s tasked with lubrication and cooling the engine. The oil grade is a reference to viscosity – a measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow. It can be confusing, but in a nutshell:

Low viscosity = thin / runny (eg: water)
High viscosity = thick (eg: honey)

Naturally, the hotter a liquid is, the lower the viscosity. This is why most car manuals recommend different oil grades (viscosity) in different climates. 

Precaution: Oil changes aren’t expensive – especially compared to the costs of repairing damaged engines. Give your car an oil change in late spring or at least, give your service centre a call to check that the correct oil is being used.

Worn Wiper Blades

Worn Wiper Blades

Although more noticeable at the end of summer when the weather turns wet, wipers can often get overlooked.

If you park under trees and debris falls on your windscreen, collecting between the wiper blade rubber and glass, streaks often occur. For example, you wash your windscreen using the washers and are left with an ‘arc’ of dirty water right where you’re looking. This is from debris under the wiper blades.

Constant and direct hot sun can also perish wiper blades. This, like debris, can result in smears and streaks on your windscreen and make a high-pitched noise when they’re in operation.

Precaution: Wash your car regularly, making sure to lift the wiper blade and clean underneath. If they’re looking old and worn, new blades are inexpensive and easy to install.

Other Common Summer Car Damage

Other Common Summer Car Damage

Paint Damage:

This appears as white or light-colored fade on paint, often on the roof or bonnet. It’s UV damage caused by long exposure to the hot sun. Repainting cars is an expensive and labour-intensive job.

Precaution:
To minimise this, wash your car regularly, apply wax or a ceramic coating or use a car cover if you’re planning to leave your car parked outside for several days or more.

Headlight Fade

Like paint fade, this is another victim of direct sunlight. It appears as a yellowish discolouration on headlights. Fortunately, it can be repaired simply with a headlight restoration kit.

Precaution:
Clear headlight film is available which acts as a sacrificial and protective layer.

Dashboard Cracks

More common in old cars, these cracks are another victim of the harsh Aussie sun. They result from high heat and perished plastic and vinyl.

Precaution:
Products like ArmorAll protect these materials from the effects of the sun. Apply a coating before summer kicks in and reapply if your dashboard or other interior rubber, vinyl and plastic materials look like they need some protection.

The Bottom Line:

Summer may bring a few concerns for car owners, but the above precautions can dramatically reduce the chances of a breakdown. Follow these street parking safety tips as well for extra protection. For most of us, our car is the most or second-most important asset so it’s worth taking care of.

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.

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